In my experience finishing a first draft is a lot harder than starting one.
The last twenty thousand words of a first draft novel can be a weird time for you, the writer. Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong and at times it can feel like the universe is conspiring against you. Life outside of your writing also seems to crumble at the same time and you end up writing ‘The End’ feeling exhausted, tearful and a little…unhinged.
If you are approaching the final leg on your first draft here is a list of things to expect from here on in:
- Insanity. You will go a little peculiar. Expect to do some odd things in the final stages of your draft. These can include putting random things in the fridge, getting hysterical for no reason, speaking in a strange tongue and making some odd clothing choices (if you are wearing clothes after reaching 70k words that is). If you don’t believe me about the clothing bit, make a note of the smart / chic / respectable outfits you are wearing as you start your opening chapter. Then compare them to what you have left on your body as you hammer out the final chapter. The more you write the less you care about clothes. By the end of my first drafts I am either half-naked or I resemble a scarecrow’s ideal date.
- Unexpected life curveballs. I have experienced leaking roofs, freezers happily defrosting by themselves, washing machines dying mid underwear cycle, pets doing some crazy stuff to my furniture, car tyres deflating and loved ones falling sick during the last twenty thousand words of first drafts. These curveballs are basically sent by the universe to test your perseverance and commitment to your story.
- Hatred of your story. By the final leg you and your story will have spent an unhealthy amount of time together and you will both be in desperate need of a break. Don’t let the hatred stop you from finishing your draft.
- Distractions. You will get distracted by anything and everyone. Seriously you will become interested in cracks in walls, insects on the floor, the newsletters from distant family relations, boring conversations, EVERYONE on Twitter and your neighbour’s holiday photos. You will be distracted and struggling to finish your book!
- Glaring plot holes. As you try to bring all your story threads together you will encounter a few plot holes and some will make you scream. The important thing to remember is that you can fix them in later drafts but when you are exhausted and desperately trying to finish your book they will make you think about chucking it all away.
- Fatigue. If you have never written a book you will not have encountered the fatigue that comes at the end of a first draft. It’s not tiredness that can be cured by an early night either. I have to take several weeks off after writing a first draft as this is how long it takes for that awful drained feeling to disappear. Writing books takes so much out of us.
- Story doubt. This comes in huge waves towards the end. You will doubt everything about your tale. In your exhausted state and with ten thousand words to go you will make the mistake of seeking the opinion of others on your story. This is a dangerous thing to do as you can guarantee there will be someone who will make an unwanted negative comment about some aspect of it. Finishing your novel will suddenly become the hardest task ever as all you will think about is this negative comment. What you need is to finish, not seek opinions!
- Minor characters making a final bid for stardom. I find that minor characters raise their game as you approach the end of your story. They can sense you are weak and desperate to finish. Some crafty minor characters can also see that the relationship between you and your main character is straining by the end of your draft, so they will make sure they outshine the main character at all times. There will be a few heart stopping moments where you will have to think on your feet and add stuff in order to get your story to the final stages. It will be in these heart stopping moments that your minor characters will make out they are your only hope. They know it’s all about survival so you can expect some jaw dropping performances from your attention seeking minor characters.
- Goofy happy hysteria. In amongst all the challenging stuff you will get bursts of goofy happy hysteria. Your beloved draft will soon be finished. The thought of finishing your first draft will be amazing.
- Support from other writers on social media. Post or tweet something about trying to finish your draft and I guarantee you will get support back. This is why I love the online writing community, it keeps us going in our hour of need.
If you are currently out there, wrestling with the end of a first draft, you have my sympathies.
First drafts are hard…but they can be finished.
Keep smiling as different problems await you on subsequent drafts 🙂
Have a good day!